From left to right: Katie, Emma, friend Emily behnd Emma, and Jr ... poor Jr.
A few years ago, (seems like yesterday) the kids above and I cruised over to St. Augustine beach for a little early spring beach day. It was grey and a little chilly, but being kids, they came prepared and went splashing off into the calm, cold surf. I hung out at the water's edge, waiting for June and bathtub temperature ocean water.
As I wandered around playing life guard, I came across a cannonball jellyfish like the one in the bottom picture. Cannonballs are big, thick jellies without the ability to sting humans. I swear I had handled a zillion of them and never once experienced a sting ... nor had anyone I knew of.
The kids saw me staring at the sand, so they came bounding out of the water to see what I had found. It seemed like a teachable moment, so I picked up the jellyfish and started on my dissertation. They stared at me as if I had papayas hanging from both nostrils. "It'll sting you!" they chorused.
I explained that cannonballs were "safe" jellyfish and you could handle one without getting stung. We even got into how the nematocysts work when jellyfish do sting something.
"Don't worry, it won't sting you" I told Emma as I handed her the upside down jellyfish to hold for the picture. I took the picture and Emma handed me the jellyfish. We chatted a bit more about jellyfish in general and then their interest began to return to the rolling waves. The teachable moment was over. They were itching to get back in the water.
In my hands the upside down jellyfish was essentially a bowl containing about a quart of seawater. Just being silly, I tipped it over and poured the water on my son's chest. They all jumped back laughing ... and then ... Jr. got kind of whiney. Actually real whiney considering there were girls present and he was trying to be tough. Then he started rubbing his chest and complaining of an itchy, stinging sensation.
Did I mention that I had handled a gazillion cannonballs and never been stung?
Okay, it seems that the belly skin of young lads may be more sensitive to the weak nematocysts of cannonball jellies than say ... the thicker skin of our hands. I had never been stung by cannonballs, but then again I had never rubbed one on my belly either.
Apparently, the water from inside the jellyfish carried some bits of tentacle with it and those had stung poor Jr's thin belly skin.
I had not brought my spritzer bottle of vinegar for jellyfish sting neutralization either so we had a little problem.
I knew what to do though.
We gathered our stuff and left the beach. By the time we got to the Tastee Freeze, the itchy burning feeling had subsided and a hot fudge sundae seemed to eliminate any traces of discomfort.